Report

Is the American Dream Alive and Well?

  • May 25, 2007
  • By John Morton and Isabel V. Sawhill
American men have less income than their fathers' generation did at the same age, according to an analysis by the Economic Mobility Project, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Comprised of a Principals' Group of experts from The American Enterprise Institute, The Brookings Institution, The Heritage Foundation, and The Urban Institute, the project seeks to investigate the health and status of economic mobility in America.

The report Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well? was co-written by John E. Morton, managing director of Pew's Economic Policy Initiatives and director of the Economic Mobility Project and Isabel V. Sawhill, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Principal of the Economic Mobility Project. It includes analysis led by a research team at Brookings and outlines what economic mobility is, why it matters in today's economy, and why it is important for policy makers to focus on mobility as part of the ongoing national economic debate.

According to the report, men who were in their thirties in 1974 had median incomes of about $40,000, while men of the same age in 2004 had median incomes of about $35,000 (adjusted for inflation). Thus, as a group, income for this generation of men is, on average, 12 percent lower than those of their fathers' generation. While factors other than cash income also contribute to economic mobility, these data challenge the two-century-old presumption that each successive generation will be better off than the one that came before. The findings rely on new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.